July 10, 2011

China to Launch New Data Relay Satellite (Source: Xinhua)
China will launch a new data relay satellite "Tianlian I-02" in the next few days at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest Sichuan Province. Sources with the center said Sunday that a Long March-3C rocket carrier will carry the satellite into space. Both the satellite and rocket carrier are launch-ready and preparations are going smoothly, the sources said. (7/10)

White Sands Role Ends as Spaceflight Shifts to Tourism, New Spaceport (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
One spacecraft runway's sunset may be another's sunrise. White Sands Space Harbor, a backup U.S. space shuttle landing site since the '80s, will start decommissioning this year, with the end of the space shuttle program. But just a few dozen miles away, nearly due west across a mountain range, is a spacecraft runway that was formally dedicated for the first time last October. The 10,000-foot, concrete airway is one of the main features of the under-construction Spaceport America, about 45 miles north of Las Cruces. (7/9)

Head Start in Private Space Race (Source: Las Cruces Sun-News)
A Sound Off! caller, whose comments didn't make it to print, complained last week that, just like the Rail Runner, the spaceport has yet to turn a profit. "Well, now that the facts and figures are coming out on Bill Richardson's railroad and it's a financial disaster for the state, I would hope the news media would focus in on his second deal, which I refer to as boondoggle on the boondocks, the spaceport out here. Nothing is flying out of it or into it," the caller complained, pointing out a common deficiency with projects that are still under construction and not yet open.

It's true that both the Rail Runner and Spaceport America are big projects passed under Gov. Bill Richardson. And, both deal with transportation — one from the 19th Century, the other from the 21st Century and beyond. Probably the most common criticism of the spaceport is that it takes taxes from poor people to fund an amusement park for rich people. The voters of Doña Ana and Sierra counties, which both have serious issues with poverty, passed a 1/4 of 1 percent increase in the gross receipts tax to help fund the spaceport.

In preparing for the transition from public to private space flight, the FAA created the Air Transportation Center of Excellence for Commercial Space Transportation in 2010. The partnership will bring together leaders in academia, industry and government to lay the groundwork for a new commercial space industry, and New Mexico State University was selected to lead the effort. (7/10)

Virginia Aims to Claim the Next "Space Coast" (Source: Washington Post)
They’re rushing to finish the new launch pad. The innkeepers and the ice cream parlors are figuring out how to capitalize on the crowds. And although there isn’t yet enough on display in the visitor’s center to occupy a child on a rainy day, Wallops Island is getting there, gearing up for its turn as the next Space Coast.

The marshy, ear-lobe-shaped land mass southwest of Chincoteague Island is home to NASA’s first rocket-launching site as well as the state-supported Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a scrappy, seven-person operation that is partly run out of an old gas station. With the retirement of the space shuttles, the spaceport is poised to become a major hub of commercial space flight and a tourist attraction to rival the Florida Space Coast at Cape Canaveral.

If the fevered predictions of local leaders come true, the expansion of the aerospace industry around Wallops could inject tens of millions of tourist dollars into a regional economy that now relies on an annual wild pony auction and the area’s Mayberry flavor to bring in visitors. (7/10)

An Inside Look At A New Spaceship Factory (Source: Aviation Week)
In the heat of the Mojave Desert, the newly completed steel and concrete of the world’s first commercial suborbital spaceship factory proves the goal of space tourism is nearing fruition. Across the flightline from Scaled Composites at Mojave Air & Space Port, The Spaceship Co.’s (TSC) 68,000-sq.-ft. Final Assembly, Integration and Test Hangar (FAITH) will soon be humming with activity.

By September the facility will start producing the first sections for a second WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) carrier aircraft along with the first of multiple SpaceShipTwo (SS2) suborbital vehicles for Virgin Galactic and, ultimately, other customers.

TSC is a joint venture between Virgin Group and Northrop Grumman subsidiary Scaled Composites. It was set up to bridge the gap between the hand-made, prototyping style of the California-based spaceship developer and a standardized “big aerospace” production facility in the mold of Boeing or Lockheed Martin, capable of delivering safe, reliable passenger-carrying spacecraft. (7/8)

Rubio: NASA Must Continue Looking Ahead (Source: Tallahassee Democrat)
Space exploration speaks volumes about America, who we are as a people and as a nation. When America was born 235 years ago, surely our Founding Fathers could not fathom that one day our people would fly amongst the stars. But the truth is it has always been our destiny. In the 19th century, it became our manifest destiny to explore and push westward until the American land stretched from sea to shining sea. And once we reached as far west as we could, Americans had no choice but to gaze up to the sky and settle on the stars as our next frontier.

When this final shuttle mission draws to a close, many Americans will be startled by the realization that we don't have an answer to the question: What's next for NASA? NASA has no answer, the administration has no answer, and as we transition to the next generation of space exploration, Florida's aerospace workers are left with only questions about their future.

And I say this, I fully recognize that our nation faces a debt crisis because, quite frankly, politicians in both parties have spent recklessly for many decades, and it will require Washington to finally live within its means and for leaders to make tough choices about what our nation's priorities are. NASA is no exception. It will not be about spending more. It will be about spending wisely. (7/10)

Rep. Sandy Adams: Shuttle Layoffs Were Avoidable (Source: Florida Today)
If you are anything like me, you have been through a range of emotions as NASA’s 30-year space shuttle program comes to an end. I see the pain of my friends and neighbors who have lost their jobs and are wondering how they will pay their bills. I share the anger of so many of you directed at this administration and NASA for failing to prepare our community for this painstaking transition.

Also, I am frustrated by the lack of cooperation from NASA and the administration about their plans for the future of our nation’s space program. I talk to people every day who are struggling in this tight economy and are wondering how to make ends meet. And I know the men and women who have worked so hard to make America the space exploration leader are scared about what their future holds now that the shuttle program is about to end.

One of the most troubling things about this dire situation is how preventable it was. If NASA and President Obama had planned for this transition instead of simply canceling the Constellation program without a viable alternative, perhaps the Space Coast would not be losing tens of thousands of jobs. (7/10)

Russia to Launch New Soyuz Rocket Variant Next Year (Source: Parabolic Arc)
Russia plans to launch the inaugural flight of the new Soyuz-1 booster from Plesetsk next April, ITAR-TASS reports. The vehicle will launch a pair of university satellites into low Earth orbit. The Soyuz-1 is a stripped down version of the Soyuz-2.1b rocket with its booster rockets removed and its first stage refitted with NK-33 engines originally built for the Soviet lunar program. The second stage remains the same as the Soyuz-2.1b. (6/27)

Teen Finds Piece Of Apollo 16 (Source: FOX 29)
A teenager from North Carolina thought he had found a piece of old sheet metal on a beach near his home, but actually uncovered a piece of space exploration history. NASA has determined the 16-year-old boy had found a piece of the Apollo 16 rocket, which had broken off and landed in the Atlantic Ocean in 1972. He turned the piece of metal, which has the Apollo 16 logo, back over to NASA and was given the VIP treatment at the final shuttle launch. (7/10)

NASA Tracking Space Debris in Space Station's Path (Source: AFP)
NASA is tracking a piece of space junk that could be on a path toward the International Space Station, where the shuttle Atlantis has just docked on its final mission. However, NASA is not ready to say for sure whether the object is projected to collide with the shuttle and station, though the paths were likely to cross on Tuesday, said deputy manager of the space shuttle program LeRoy Cain. (7/10)

Rocket Launches Completed from NASA Wallops Spaceport (Source: NASA)
NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia successfully launched two NASA suborbital rockets carrying experiments to study the ionosphere on Sunday. The Black Brant V rocket launched at 10 a.m. and the second rocket, a Terrier-Improved Orion, launched 15 seconds later. A second pair of Black Brant V/Terrier-Improved Orion rockets will be launched no earlier than Tuesday, July 12, as part of the series to study the ionosphere. (7/10)

Swatch From Famous Moon-Bound Flag Goes To Auction (Source: NPR)
It was one small step for man. Now one small strip from the famed flag planted on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission is set to go to auction. "This is the most-viewed flag in American history," said Michael Orenstein, whose west Los Angeles auction house is handling the Sunday sale that features a piece of fabric shorn from the banner as it was being prepared for the world's first lunar landing.

Other items on the block include one of the Collier trophies — the so-called Oscar of aviation — that was awarded to the crew of 1962's Mercury 7 mission and a three-ring notebook used by "Deke" Slayton as he trained to be one of the space program's first astronauts. But Orenstein said the sale's gem is the seven-inch strip of red and white fabric being auctioned along with a photo bearing Neil Armstrong's autograph on consignment by Tom Moser, the retired NASA engineer who was tasked with designing the moon-bound flag in the weeks before Apollo 11's 1969 launch. (7/10)

Volusia Shuttle Workers Face Layoffs (Source: Daytona Beach News-Journal)
For area residents Jim Macklefresh and Jim Severson, the launch of space shuttle Atlantis from Kennedy Space Center will always be a bittersweet memory. The two friends are among several hundred Volusia County residents who work or used to work at the space center. Some have found jobs and others have returned to school for retraining. "There is not a lot of electrical work to be had," said Macklefresh, 44, who has worked at the space center for 20 years. For the last eight years, he has been employed by United Space Alliance. (7/10)

New Mexico Steps Up to Bat in Space Race (Source: Daily Times)
Despite his worry for NASA operations, NASA astronaut Sidney Gutierrez, a major player in Spaceport America operations, said he believes New Mexico's commercial space programs in Las Cruces will pave the way for the future of space exploration."We're working hard, along with Chris Anderson, the head of Spaceport America authority. They support a viable opportunity in New Mexico for suborbital flights," he said.

State Sen. William Sharer, R-Farmington, said he believes that Spaceport America has the potential to affect Four Corner Region's oil and gas companies looking to move heavy loads and machinery around the globe. "All of the companies build specialized machines that they can put on the space shuttles and have them delivered in four hours," Sharer said. (7/10)

Samsung Nexus S Launches Aboard Final Shuttle Mission (Source: Eurodroid)
Samsung's Nexus S is the first commercial smartphone certified by NASA to fly on the space shuttle and to be cleared for use on the International Space Station. The experiment will use the smartphone-enhanced SPHERES as remotely operated robots to conduct interior survey and inspections of the station, to capture mobile camera images and video, and to study how robots can support future human exploration. (9/10)

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